What is it?


BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Q&A - BH

From afar, they look rather like the car­toon trees a young child might draw, or huge um­brel­las blown in­side out. Dragon’s blood trees are unique to the desert is­land of So­co­tra, a hotbed of evo­lu­tion ly­ing off the coasts of Ye­men and Ethiopia, where soils are thin and rain scarce. Their un­usual shape traps pre­cious mois­ture from sea mists. Water con­denses on the trees’ waxy leaves, then drib­bles down branches to the grate­ful roots. The dense fo­liage helps to re­duce water loss. Why the strange name? If cut, the bark ‘bleeds’ a red­dish resin, which has long been tapped and dried for sale as a medicine or dye. Ac­cord­ing to leg­end, the trees grow where blood was spilled dur­ing a ti­tanic bat­tle be­tween an ele­phant and dragon.

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